In Canada, the law applies to everyone, including:
- the police
- the government
- public officials
Canadian laws recognize and protect basic rights and freedoms, such as liberty and equality.
Public law and private law
Law can be divided into public and private law.
Public laws set the rules for the relationship between a person and society and for the roles of different levels of government. This includes:
- Constitutional; and
- administrative law.
Private or civil law deals with the relationships between people. Civil laws set the rules for:
- property ownership
- rights and duties of family members
- damage to someone or to their property caused by others, and so on.
Courts in Canada help people resolve disputes fairly and within the law. Courts:
- interpret and establish law;
- set standards; and
- raise questions that affect all parts of Canadian society.
Most people settle their differences outside of court (for example, through mediation or arbitration).
If you need help in a Canadian court, it is a good idea to hire a lawyer. There are services that can help you find a lawyer such as:
- referral services provided by provincial and territorial law societies; or
- JusticeNet (telephone: 1-866-919-3219).
Depending on your income, you may be able to get a lawyer for free (this is called “legal aid”). Each province and territory has a legal aid society. You can also ask an immigrant-serving organization in your city or town for help hiring a lawyer.
The police in Canada keep people safe and enforce the law. There are different types of police, including:
You should call the police if you:
- are the victim of a crime
- see a crime taking place
- know about criminal activities
The number for your local police is in the front pages of the telephone book. If you need to call the police in an emergency, dial 911.
If the police question or arrest you:
- do not resist
- be calm
- speak as clearly as possible
- be ready to show some kind of identification
- look directly at the officer
- make sure you know why you have been arrested
- ask to have a lawyer and a translator present (if you need one)
- do not offer money, gifts or services in exchange for special treatment
Under Canadian law, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
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